Our circadian rhythm is what wakes us up without an alarm and lets us know when it’s time to sleep. Maybe you learned this in high school biology or maybe like us, you were too busy trying to remember the difference between a ribosome and mitochondria. Eating at Blue Collar works similarly. It isn’t somewhere we go to on a weekly basis, but whenever we find ourselves with a strong, unconscious craving for braised meat or shrimp and grits, we always end up on at this diner on Biscayne Boulevard without even knowing how we got there.
The menu at this small Upper East Side spot feels like it was created by someone booking random flights around the country and sourcing suggestions from the first person they met outside the airport. If a diner left the family business to go travel the world and find itself, you’d get Blue Collar.
During lunch or dinner here, you can eat jambalaya, latkes, braised brisket, rainbow trout, veal parm, mac and cheese, spicy oxtail, and a dozen other things that someone, somewhere is going to be very excited about. But the variety isn’t the reason why we’ll happily wait for a table here. It’s because all the food is great.
The latkes are incredibly crispy little discs that come with homemade chunky applesauce. The daily braised options - which alternate between brisket, oxtail, pork shoulder, chicken, veal, and pot roast - are just about always worth ordering and have that deep, rich flavor you only get with foods that cooked for longer than a Ken Burns documentary. The cheeseburger features a NY Strip patty on a sturdy Portuguese muffin, which stands up to the patty’s juices better than 99% of the buns we’ve ever met. And the rotating chalkboard of roasted, grilled, and sautéed vegetables are usually the first things we finish every time we eat here.
Chances are, whatever you have for brunch, lunch, or dinner at Blue Collar will be the sort of big, heavy meal you don’t want on a first date or before going to a bar. It’s going to leave you full enough to not think about this place for a while. But then one day, you’ll be driving down Biscayne and a thought will sneak up on you like a truck with broken brake lights: it’s time for another trip to Blue Collar.
Crispy fried potatoes pancakes are too good to only eat on holidays, which is why we’re thankful Blue Collar serves them year-round. We’re also thankful they’re smart enough to serve them with chunky applesauce, which is a nickname you don’t want.
Shrimp And Grits
This is a must-order for anyone who even remotely likes grits, which are cheesy and fluffy here. Even if you don’t, you can still pick off the excellent shrimp and little chunks of bacon and still be pretty happy.
Mac And Cheese
Cavatappi, fontina, cheddar, and parm come together to form this very good mac and cheese. There are also some crunchy crumbs on top and the noodles are the spiral ones that look like a very fun water slide. You can add bacon or shrimp (or both) if you want - both of which are tasty but not super necessary because this is perfectly fine on its own.
Crispy Skin Snapper
A lot of the fish we see on menus call themselves “crispy,” even though the skin is softer than a piece of paper that’s been marinated in olive oil. This skin on this snapper, though, is actually crispy. It also comes with two vegetables too, and one of them should be the curried cauliflower puree.
This is one of our favorite burgers in the city. The NY strip patty is good enough to eat without the bun. But we’d never do that because this bun is a Portuguese muffin, which is kind of like an English muffin that lifts weights. More sandwiches should embrace the Portuguese muffin.
Spicy Braised Oxtail
Huge chunks of oxtail that are easy to chip away at with a knife and fork since the meat is pretty much ready to come off the bones before you even touch them. You can pick your level of spice - from mild to hot. If you know you like oxtail, get it. If you’re not quite sure, you may need a lighter intro.